TANZANIA, a country with the biggest number of National Parks in the world, is also about to become the first African state south of the Sahara to establish a maiden geopark.
The first ever ‘geopark’ in both the country and the Sub- Saharan African Region, whose initial establishment process has started, is going to be mapped across four districts in Arusha Region within the Northern Tourism Circuit. It will cover scenic sections of Karatu, Monduli, Longido and Ngorongoro Districts.
The hot and puffing, active volcano and Tanzania’s third highest peak, Oldoinyo L’engai Mountain will be one of the highlights for the geopark.
The first ever sub-Saharan geopark project, initiated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) is being coordinated by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), involving district officials and community leaders.
The European Union (EU) is funding the maiden geopark and according to Engineer Joshua Mwankunda, the Acting Manager for the NCAA Cultural Heritage Department, EU has already floated 1.8 million Euros, (equivalent to 4.3 billion/-) as initial funding towards the proposed geopark. Geoparks are supposed to be a unified geographical area which addresses the protection and use of geological heritage in a sustainable way, while also promoting social and economic well-being of the people residing within the earmarked location for the park.
So far there is only one geopark on the African continent and this is found further North in Morocco. But for the south of Sahara region, the proposed one in Northern Tanzania is going to be the first.
A special meeting of officials to lay down plans for the maiden geopark was held in Arusha over the weekend, involving district commissioners, council chairpersons, executive directors and tourism officers, as well as administrative secretaries from Longido, Monduli, Karatu and Ngorongoro districts.
“Karatu Geopark will encompass the Eyasi escarpments, Lake Eyasi and its nearby Rock paintings as well as Endoro waterfalls,” said the Karatu District Council Chairman, Mr Jubilate Gerson Mnyenge.
On his part, Mr Isaac Ernest, the Chairman of Monduli District Council mentioned the Engaruka plains and Mto-wa-Mbu valley as an area linked to the proposed Geopark being undertaken through the Ngorongoro-Lengai Management board.
The Ngorongoro District Commissioner, Mr Hashim Mgandilwa, said the active Oldonyo Lengai mountain (mountain of God), its corresponding Lake Natron, the Engaresero rocky hills and pillars of erosion are among the spellbinding features that will make the Tanzanian geopark a force to reckon with as far as scientific and tourism values are concerned.